Should have known better...

So there I was trundling down to the south coast. I was meeting up with Violet Blaze for my first proper photo shoot in Brighton.  London was experiencing a scorching sun so I thought against taking my reflector and just carrying my Slingshot bag for the day would suffice.I checked my kit twice as it would not be good to get all the way to Brighton to find I had left my camera behind! What I should have bought was suncream.. lots of it. More on that later.

It has been a long time since I have been to the coast and stepping off the train at Hove, I was instantly struck by the quality of the air. So much better than the city. Massive seagulls too!

Having worked out a route from Google Maps on the train I headed south towards the beach. I saw the usual fare on offer from shops, bucket, spade, small flags etc... I wanted to find a Fish and Chip shop that still did a portion of chips in cone...

Arriving at the beach I saw the sea for the first time in years. The sun by now was overhead and there were a lot of people on the pebble beach already. Turning left I saw the remains of the West Pier at Brighton. After seeing it on Google Maps I made a note to take a few shots of it.

Walking eastwards I noticed the amount of people on the beach increased the closer I got to Brighton. I decided to look out for spot where I could do the shoot along the way. Passing stalls and entertainments I came across a stunt show, people on BMX bikes would ride up a ramp and fling themselves around for the applause of the crowd. I stopped here for a while and took a number of shots for three reasons:

  • With the available light I was able to attain a high enough shutter speed to freeze the action when a rider was upside down in the air.
  • I used the technique of pre-focusing on the top of the ramp, turned off the auto focus and fired off a couple of shots when the rider came up.
  • I assumed like everyone else watching.... that most were here because they wanted to see someone crash.

Moving on from the two wheeled acrobats I continued towards the West Pier. I noticed that the amount of people was increasing rapidly and to get a clear shot I would have to thread my way around bathers and screaming children to get a good position.

I then noticed a groyne stretching out towards the sea with only a fisherman occupying the end of it. This was a much better idea than wading through the population of East Sussex who had descended on the beach that day. Nodding a silent hello to the fisherman I took a few frames with my 50-200mm lens. I filled the frame with the whole structure and had to wait for a pedalo to slowly move out of the way.

I was struck by the reflection of the structure and decided to make that part of the resulting photo above.

Eventually, I hooked up with Violet Blaze. On the way to the West Pier I spotted the end of a groyne that was appearing out of the sea as the tide went out. However it was blisteringly hot by now so we stopped a ways before that. We stepped onto the beach and picked out a spot by wall of the groyne, a few meters from the waves.

As this was my first proper shoot I had thought on the train about directing a model. I only had to say to Violet, 'When you hear the shutter fire, change position of your arms, body or expression and we will go from there.' I did'nt have to direct at all after that, Violet 'channeled Beyoncé' as she put it.

After a few shots of Violet lying down on a beach towel we moved to the groyne wall only to find it covered in seaweed and barnacles. Not wanting Violet to lean on the barnacles and get slowly eaten I suggested she walked into the sea a little and start splashing around. Now this is a pro tip here... water and an DLSR to not mix! I stood well back and used the 50-250 so I was well out of reach of the splashy model. Even at 130mm, f5.6 I was getting a shutter speed of 1/500th of a second so the spray from the waves were frozen.

After a good number of splashy shots, I helped Violet out of sea. We ended the shoot with a few shots playing with the towel and a quick shot of the Traveling Police Box for the archives!

Violet Blaze - 94-2

This is my favorite shot from the shot.

The one thing I forgot to do was to bring either a hat or suncream...  I got sun burnt which even as I type this post, still stings. It is nice to get a bit of colour in my face for once... shame it is bright red..